Wednesday, December 27, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: new cymbals are in / SPECIAL

2024 UPDATE: All right, the special is obviously OVER, but, hey, Cymbal & Gong are such special cymbals that even if you have to pay the shipping they're a bargain. Career instruments for players, just waiting for you to grab them. 

UPDATE: Time is running out on the special, gang— expires with the new year's eve countdown! 

CYMBALISTIC: OK, new cymbal videos are up! Run check them out, and get back to me fast, because for the rest of December I'll be offering: 

•••  FREE SHIPPING within the United States
•••  $60 SHIPPING CREDIT PER CYMBAL internationally— up to the full cost of shipping 

Offer expires at 12:00 AM PST, January 1, 2024. Tick tock, people! 

There are also two cymbals I left in Germany that you can get with no shipping at all— you just have to get yourself to Berlin (or maybe Dresden) to pick them up. Go to Cymbalistic and look for the ones that say GET IT IN GERMANY

There is a pretty good selection of cymbals up right now— more than one of the most popular models: Extra Special Janavars (both heavy patina and lighter Holy Grail patina), Special Janavars, A-type Holy Grails. As always, if you're looking for something not listed, let me know and I may be able to go to Cymbal & Gong HQ and pick one out for you. 

And it's a good chance to compare the heavy patina Extra Special Janavars with the lighter-patina versions— I have two 22s that are almost exactly the same weight— 2425 and 2426 grams. 

Heavy patina, “Donna” [UPDATE: this one has been sold!]

Light patina, “Khan”:  

Both great cymbals, I won't impose my personal tastes any more than I already do by selecting which cymbals I sell. I believe you could use all of them your whole life— some are obvious star cymbals, others may make you adjust your ear or touch slightly, or be best featured for their role in your set up. 

Anyway: the sale clock is ticking, get in touch via the EMAIL TODD link in the sidebar here, or through the form on Cymbalistic, and let me know what you want!

Playing charisma

Charisma: Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.  

- some dictionary

In becoming better drummers and musicians— and in being lovers of music, and of percussion in music— I think, finally, we're looking for charisma. In the music itself— not stage presence, bravura, or manner in performing. Whatever our abilities, whether we're playing busy, simple, whatever. It's an energetic thing, an immediate sense that this is a thing. A feeling of real substance, personality, presence, and likability. A sense that you're hearing a living event, even on a decades old recording. 

It's Brad Pitt vs. Ben Affleck. You know it when you see it, or hear it. Think John Bonham playing Black Dog, vs. whatever recording with Carmine Appice you may have checked out and immediately forgotten (sorry Carmine!). 

Non-charisma feels flat, colorless, lacking in impact— even when it's loud and busy. It's hard to stay interested in it, and hard to remember it. It may feel generic, over-correct, unsurprising, non-specific. Whatever emotion it inspires is non-durable. Like daytime television.

I don't want to get into “rating” famous drummers; that is not what this is about— but let's look at some familiar examples illustrating the quality, and its relative presence— I think if you know these players, you know what I'm talking about. I'm not judging anyone's artistry or greatness at their job, I'm talking only about what gives me joy, what attracts me to percussion.

Roy Haynes and Brian Blade are both hugely charismatic— very flamboyant, dramatic. Charli Persip, Dannie Richmond and Pete La Roca had some of that same very bright edge. 

Philly Joe Jones, Jeff Watts, Al Foster, Vernel Fournier, Ed Blackwell, all have a feeling of massive substance, they sound grounded. And Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Greg Errico. Mickey Roker is seemingly a workhorse kind of persona, but he sounds substantive. Grady Tate also. 

Billy Higgins is quietly charismatic, musical, strikingly unpretentious. Paul Motian is different— he's often not quiet— but similar. Mel Lewis is maybe the ultimate pure working musician, but he doesn't make the strong impression Higgins does— on me. 

Elvin Jones and Ed Blackwell have such substance they seem to be speaking for history, speaking for Africa. People write about them that way. You have to remind yourself that they're just individual guys with the same amount of time on the planet as the rest of us, who played a lot, hung around with musicians, listened to Max Roach records, practiced their Haskell Harr, and did a lot of gigs.  

Tony Williams in the 60s had massive playing charisma, that was later replaced by pure power, and some not very nice drum sounds. His cymbal beat that everyone loved was replaced by a quarter note pulse that was like getting a refrigerator dropped on your head. Terry Bozzio in the 70s was in a similar bag, but is much more likable— hear him on the Brecker Brothers' Heavy Metal Bebop. 

Buddy Rich is a titanic presence; he demands to be perceived as charismatic, but I don't find his playing attractive or likable. He's like watching a Tom Cruise performance— you feel like you're being assaulted. He does have a very big presence.  

Steve Gadd is massively charismatic. Vinnie Colaiuta is the Lamborghini version of Steve Gadd, but Gadd has much greater charisma. Same with Dave Weckl— that is graphically illustrated if you watch their famous three-way drum battle video. Everyone makes the same comment about it:

It seems to be hard for supercar-type drummers to make a big impression beyond their obvious titanic technical abilities. Overwhelming in the moment, but ultimately not a real deep experience. Still, Colaiuta and Weckl are both on some recordings that are very attractive in the way I'm talking about. 

Of the famous rock players, Ringo Starr's playing with the Beatles was charismatic; Charlie Watts, God rest him, never made a huge impression on me. Keith Moon: very charismatic for pure energy, despite having kind of a weak sound.

Mitch Mitchell played a lot of notes, but doesn't make a big impression. Bill Ward attempted to be a John Bonham-like presence with Black Sabbath, but he sounds smaller, less interesting. Ginger Baker was the prototype for that role, but compared to Bonham he sounds boxy, abrasive, uninteresting. Later on we have that clown Stewart Copeland, whose playing was very charismatic back when he worked for Sting— people are still trying, and failing, to duplicate his snare sound. They never get the same energy. 

Neil Peart is a giant nerd, but his playing has inspired near religious devotion in millions of fans. Whatever you think about his audience's level of sophistication, they have real musical interest— they're attracted to the way the percussion is featured in the music. He must have done a really great job with those worked-out parts. What other drummer has inspired that level of attention?  

Dave Grohl is a charismatic person, but on the Nirvana records he was not a charismatic drummer. He's loud, but his sound is unpleasant, and whatever playing personality he has is buried under those rigidly composed parts. Paul Rudd and Rick Allen were also heavily produced, but are much more likable on those recordings— maybe that's Mutt Lange's doing. 

I think people who know these players know what I'm talking about. It's not a worked out theory. It may not even be a purely desirable quality, professionally: there are a lot of musicians who are great, very successful players who are relatively uncharismatic in the way I'm talking about. You'll see them play and feel, oh, he's just a guy. They'll sound like a record, like, finished, perfect; but you don't come away from the experience with a creative feeling, excited about percussion. Maybe they excel at making other people's job easier— see Mel Lewis— another subject worth thinking about. 

In fact this entire level of thought isn't really anything we can address directly in our playing life— doing our real job you can't be thinking in grand aesthetic/critical terms, there are more pressing concerns: playing good time and dynamics, playing the arrangement correctly, making everyone happy.  

So on the one hand it's a topic for fans and critics, on the other... I think as an artist you have to keep a basic naive enthusiasm for the pure thing itself, and have an idea of what actually moves you apart from the pure job of it. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Jazz coordination - feet in unison

This page is for one of my students— his jazz playing has a nice feel with just his hands, but with the feet involved it gets a little uncentered. So we're going to experiment with remedying that by playing the feet in unison. Probably it wouldn't hurt for others to do a little bit of that. 

We'll be working through these at slow to moderate tempos, ~60-110 bpm. 

Monday, December 25, 2023

Daily best music in the world: Happy holidays

Here's some nice Christmas morning listening, which I've certainly shared before— Before We Were Born, by Bill Frisell. This was my first exposure to Joey Baron's drumming, around 1990-91. I used to play these gigs in Bend, Oregon, which is on the other side of the Cascade mountains from Eugene, where I lived, and I would put this on on the drive home— about 2 1/2 hours through heavy mountains and forest, leaving around midnight. 

I also made a practice loop from the tune The Lone Ranger— it's not stated real clearly, but it is in 3/4 time, tempo is 79 bpm: 

Friday, December 22, 2023

More on New Breed

Since that last piece about the book The New Breed, by Gary Chester, I've been working with that book fairly seriously— I can already play the drums, it won't kill me to spend some time trying out somebody else's hard thing. writing persona apparently seems opinionated to some people, but I'm very suggestible. If somebody I trust tells me what to do, I'll go with it. I may not care if a lot of open handed drumming enthusiasts are into this book, but when some former Chester students, professionals doing demanding jobs— e.g. Broadway shows, Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil— advocate for it, I'll take it seriously. So despite some reservations I have about some aspects of the method, it's proof of usefulness and effectiveness for some people who are doing real work. 

So, having spent more time with the book, I have some more thoughts on it: 

Broadly, The New Breed is a framework for practicing multiple ways of counting or singing over some drum set ostinatos, while reading an independent melody part, a la Syncopation— though more 16th note oriented.

As I noted last time, as an independence concept, it's rather simplified— not simple to do, it's often extremely difficult— and similar to the massive second volume of Chapin's Advanced Techniques book, which deals with layering unrelated rhythms in different limbs. Possibly New Breed is the highest practical form of that “pure” independence concept. 

There are some other second order things, that are more particular to Chester, that have not been universally adopted by any stretch— the open handed angle, the unusual set up he recommends. Not agreeing with those things and not wanting to do thatm are part of the reason I never used the book much. But on those players' recommendations I'll play the exercises, adapted for a normal drum set, even as I don't plan to develop the open handed thing in my actual playing. 

All of that together it amounts to a method for developing some deep time and coordination superstructure. Dave Weckl is an example of what I mean by that word— hearing him play, you're hearing a lot of superstructure

[h/t to David Crigger for the video]

Clearly multiple layers of stuff happening there— not just in what he's actually playing. You don't just learn to do that on the job, you can't just try to cop it. I don't regularly listen to a lot of players like that. For comparison, you could listen to Billy Hart, who would be a more natural, organically developed player. 

That counting/singing imperative, combined with the hard independence problems, is the main thing— developing a heavy duty internal time/coordination matrix. Working on it has often felt similar learning some Bach on the piano— i.e., slow and painstaking— which is for me the interesting part of it.  

As a grand method of drumming, what I'm missing with this book is a simple core concept. For example, on this site, the major doctrine is that what we do on the drums should be fundamentally simple in concept, for ease of execution, and for improvising. It's based on one rhythm, that is the rhythm you sing, read, and play. We might elaborate on it or orchestrate it on the drums in some complicated ways, but it's fundamentally about one rhythm. With New Breed is the core concept is the mass of work that went into doing it.  

I'm also missing fundamental bodies of vocabulary. It's not a complete what-you-play book. The Reed systems, Gary Chaffee's sticking and linear systems, etc are all bodies of vocabulary— the substance of what you actually play on the drums. New Breed is certainly very thorough on the subject of groove creation, but that doesn't cover everything you actually play. 

So: it's not a complete drumming method. I think its real purpose is as a finishing system for professionally-bound players. Normally, drummers learn a whole ton of stuff fast, between about age 12-21; New Breed seems to be about disciplining that and correcting a lot of detail, ironing things out, justifying everything into a nice professional package.     

About the open handed angle: Part of the reason Chester suggests riding with the left is that it's funkier, he says; because it's controlled by the right side of the brain, which is said to be more creative. That is now a discredited theory, and I would suggest that it's because the left hand is less conditioned for that role, and will remain so, despite the work we're doing on it with the book. I consider the work on it here to be independence practice, not a total drumming orientation. 

I'll be writing more on this as I figure out as I figure it out— what the benefits are, how to incorporate it with my normal practice/teaching methods, how to approach it without being a full blown devotee, etc. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Hemiola inverted and combined

An easy page of rhythm exploration here, inverting a polyrhythm, combining inversions, and then inverting that. I've been encouraged to write these things after noticing that, starting with a simple 3:2 polyrhythm (or hemiola), running some simple mathematical permutations, and/or putting them into 2/4 or 4/4 time, we get some very common rhythms in north American and Latin music. 

There's no grand goal here, except to know rhythm a little better. Most people can play it in one or two practice sessions, then leave it. 

I encourage you to count the combined rhythm of each exercise, and think of them as sticking— variations on B RLR (B for both hands in unison). As we get into the inversions there are some RLRLR and RLB. Play first with hands only, then add the bass drum at the beginning of the pattern.

You can move your left hand between drums, and add some more bass drum. Try some things, it won't be difficult to make some interesting Afro-type grooves with this.   

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Sunday, December 10, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: December special

CYMBALISTIC: More news, a new batch of Cymbal & Gong cymbals is coming next week. And, I will be offering a rare SPECIAL for the remainder of the month of December:

Free shipping on US orders / $60 international shipping credit per cymbal (up to the total cost of shipping). 

I have a heavy week coming up, so videos of the new cymbals won't be coming until the end of the week. I do have a small selection of excellent cymbals available now, however. 

Just a heads up... stay tuned... 

Friday, December 08, 2023

Daily best music in the world: Freddie Hubbard

I'm hard at work writing this new book that you will want to BUY BUY BUY, so enjoy this Freddie Hubbard record Keep Your Soul Together, with Ralph Penland on drums. I've been playing this on a loop for about a week. 

I got to see Ralph play with Hubbard, and with Joe Henderson when I was in school in Los Angeles. He was never a very famous, but he was a great drummer, and worked with a lot, with some great people. 

The new book should be coming a little before Christmas. 

Monday, December 04, 2023

Chop busters: flammed 16ths

Another small item, while I power through writing my new book: a page of 16th notes with flams, designed to be rather technically challenging, in the manner of Ron Fink's book Chop Busters

Alternating sticking unless otherwise indicated. The first two reverse hands on the repeat, the others repeat on the same hand. 

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